Conceptual Biology and Medicine

The goal of our interdisciplinary team is to explore the conceptual and foundational bases of today’s biology and medicine. We reach this aim through what we call ‘Philosophy in biology’, an innovative way to combine the contributions of philosophy of biology, experimental biology, computational biology, and medical biology. We are focused first and
foremost on the immune system, cancer, aging, and the microbiome, although we also work on conceptual issues related to evolutionary biology, ecology, developmental biology, physiology, and the medical sciences in general. Our goal is to intervene in decisions that precede experiments, in order to maximize the chances of results.


Our research activity is divided into five axes. These axes do not represent disjoint subgroups, but rather thematic foci to which all team members may contribute at different times and to varying degrees. The first axis (“Conceptual Immunology”) investigates core concepts of immunology and puts forward an alternative view of the immune system beyond the idea of host defense. The second axis (“Cancer”) is dedicated to a deeper understanding of cancer that takes into account the role of the microenvironment, the evolutionary context, and the possible links to processes involved in aging. The third axis (“How aging causes age-related diseases”) addresses major conceptual problems concerning the mechanisms of aging and their relationship to age-related diseases. The fourth axis ( “Computational methods in biology and medicine”) aims at developing a conceptual framework to understand and facilitate the integration of computational methods in the biomedical sciences, notably in the context of immunology. Finally, the fifth axis (“Microbiome: symbiosis, immunity, and cancer”) proposes new theoretical tools to study the symbiotic relationships between organisms and their microbial communities.

Our team is a pillar of the Institute for Philosophy in Biology and Medicine (PhilInBioMed), an interdisciplinary institute located at the University of Bordeaux, France, and a national and international network of interdisciplinary institutes. PhilInBioMed aims at promoting philosophy in the biological and medical sciences.


Thanks to our Master students and fantastic administrative staff!


Lemoine, M (2023), Un problème fondamental en biogérontologie : mesure et explication du vieillissement. Bulletin d’histoire et d’épistémologie des sciences de la vie 30, 69-82.

Pradeu T, Daignan-Fornier B, Ewald A, Germain PL, Okasha S, Plutynski A, Benzekry S, Bertolaso M, Bissell M, Brown JS, Chin-Yee B, Chin-Yee I, Clevers H, Cognet L, Darrason M, Farge E, Feunteun J, Galon J, Giroux E, Green S, Gross F, Jaulin F, Knight R, Laconi E, Larmonier N, Maley C, Mantovani A, Moreau V, Nassoy P, Rondeau E, Santamaria D, Sawai CM, Seluanov A, Sepich-Poore GD, Sisirak V, Solary E, Yvonnet S, Laplane L. (2023), Reuniting Philosophy and Science to Advance Cancer Research. Biological Reviews. (Open access).

Past members

  • Imane BARBARA (Project Manager ERC IDEM project; Now Project Manager in Strasbourg)
  • Leonardo BICH (Postdoc ERC IDEM project; Now Ramon y Cajal senior researcher at the University of the Basque Country, Spain)
  • Wiebke BRETTING (Project Manager ERC IDEM project; Now Project Manager in a Bordeaux hospital-hosted project)
  • Lynn CHIU (Postdoc ERC IDEM project; Now Media and Communications Officer, Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research (KLI) & Extended Evolutionary Synthesis research project, University of St. Andrews)
  • Nicolas DUSSECH (Intern in Biology)
  • Gregor GRESLEHNER (Postdoc ERC IDEM project; Now Lecturer at the University of Vienna)
  • Katarzyna HOOKS (Postdoc; Now Postdoctoral researcher)
  • Valérie JOLIVEL (Postdoc; Now Associate Professor of Biology in Strasbourg)
  • Paôline LAURENT (PhD; Now Postdoctoral researcher at New York University)
  • Corinne LUIJTEN (Admin assistant; now graphic designer)
  • Maureen O’MALLEY (Now Senior researcher at the University of Sydney)
  • Elena RONDEAU (PhD student w/ T. Pradeu, 2017-2021, now Lecturer at the Ecole Normale Superieure in Lyon)
  • Derek SKILLINGS (Postdoc ERC IDEM project; Now Assistant Professor of Philosophy at UNC Greensboro, USA)

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